• Pastoral Song

  • By: James Rebanks
  • Narrated by: Peter Noble
  • Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (420 ratings)

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Pastoral Song

By: James Rebanks
Narrated by: Peter Noble
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Publisher's Summary

The acclaimed chronicle of the regeneration of one family's traditional English farm

National Best Seller

Winner of the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing * Named "Nature Book of the Year" by the Sunday Times * New York Times Editors' Choice * Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize * A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Sunday Times, Financial Times, New Statesman, Independent, Telegraph, Observer, and Daily Mail

"Superbly written and deeply insightful, the book captivates the reader until the journey’s end.” (Wall Street Journal)

The New York Times best-selling author of The Shepherd’s Life profiles his family’s farm across three generations, revealing through this intimate lens the profound global transformation of agriculture and of the human relationship to the land.

As a boy, James Rebanks's grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in England's Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognizable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.

Hailed as "a brilliant, beautiful book" by the Sunday Times (London), Pastoral Song (published in the United Kingdom under the title English Pastoral) is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.

This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.

[Published in the United Kingdom as English Pastoral.]

©2021 James Rebanks (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Pastoral Song

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  • Overall
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Peter Noble's narration ruined this book for me.

The choice of Peter Noble as narrator of this book was such a poor one. His reading ruined the book for me. Such a huge disappointment.

Sarah

29 people found this helpful

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A Clarion Call to Sustainable Farming

The book is true to its title. Although “pastoral” is defined by the dictionary as keeping sheep or cattle, it’s an all-around English farm life that the author “sings” about. Starting from learning farming as a young boy from his grandfather, seeing it with his own father’s work, and finally teaching it in practice to his own children, the author weaves his story.

Many fragmented parcels in older England have been aggregated into bigger pieces over time for efficiency. This is what British farming has strived for over time. Currently it’s working with, or trying to make sense of, industrial farming as practiced by huge agribusinesses in the States. Though steeped in chemicals and machinery, it does seem hard to argue against its resultant cheap supermarket food prices. After all, isn’t that what it’s mainly about? True, if the environmental cost is ignored. However, it has to be paid ultimately as fields become barren from chemicals. The agronomists’ solution ironically is to steal from plants grown in rural, non-industrial—not unusually—poorer countries. However, payment must ultimately be made to the piper. The big question is whether consumers will willingly pay more for their food in order to let industrial farming wither away and bring about sustainable farming that the earth can accept.

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, the author does not advocate total rejection of change. He sees good farming to be respectful of nature while still accepting of any new and useful but sustainable improvements.

Ironically it’s the poor farmers in underdeveloped or developing countries who are holding up a more sustainable agriculture globally. The author mentions some figure of 80%. (Unfortunately, this reviewer finds it difficult to find again the particular track for the specifics.)

Lucy from a river conservation charity induced the author—contributing partial financing as a sweetener—to reroute the river running through his land back somewhat to its old meandering route. There are so many possible ways to align with nature. This particular avenue struck this reader as rather refreshing.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that the audio’s reader was soothing and conducive to get the listener immersed in the story.

It is said that emotions, rather than reason, compels action. The author seems to rely much on the first to motivate the reader in opting for sustainable farming. This is a good book that calls one to action.

28 people found this helpful

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Wrong choice of reader

This wonderful book is absolutely ruined by a reader who overdoes his delivery and sounds like he thinks he is reading to idiot children.
Just read normally for goodness sake!

25 people found this helpful

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In the Tradition of John Seymour

As a retired sustainable enterprise professional, my dream has been to retire early to small scale market farm steading. This I have done, for the last 5 years. The difficulty in having one foot in the market economy, trying to make a profit, and the other, in seeking a sustainable lifestyle, cannot be overstated. Mr Rebanks has done a wonderful job bringing us up to date with where John Seymour left off in the 1970s and describing his journey towards a pastoral farming life. It is a good narrative, well performed, and I came away with some new ideas.

19 people found this helpful

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Vivid and Moving

This story of how a farmer became enlightened over time as he realized what it means to grow crops while sustaining the land for future generations is beautifully and powerfully told. We looked forward to each new chapter as we joined McBride on his life’s journey.

10 people found this helpful

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A Masterpiece

An absolutely stunningly beautiful book. This one will stay with me forever. I’m so grateful I stumbled across it. And I thought the narrator was perfect.

9 people found this helpful

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wonderful for farmers and food eaters

what a wonderful author and book I loved his previous book the shepherds life. recommend both

8 people found this helpful

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Wonderful story as can be expected from Rebanks

Nobles narration was calm, collected and poetic. will be searching for more titles narrated by him

5 people found this helpful

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Read it slowly, and think.

You will be rewarded, and inspired. A farmer’s, old school farmer’s, common sense hopeful view of the present and future.

5 people found this helpful

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Love James Rebanks

This is great writing. If you are a nature lover, you will eat up every word. Wish there were more new in this book. After A Shepherd’s Life, I was hoping for more.

2 people found this helpful